Wintry weather creates slow traffic, slushy conditions on U.S. 67

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - Drivers heading home from the holidays met hazardous conditions on the major local highways in the area.

Traffic funneled mostly into one lane between Jonesboro and Newport on U.S. 67 after snow blanketed much of Northeast Arkansas.

The drive along this 20-mile stretch of highway appeared dazzling, yet desolate, early Wednesday morning.

The first few drivers cut paths into the freshly fallen snow, guiding others well before crews had a chance to better clear the roadway.

The slushy, slick conditions came as a dangerous consequence for people, like Mellisa Murdock, from enjoying an officially 'white Christmas.'

"I actually started [driving] last night in Poplar Bluff, Mo., and I'm headed to Bryant, [Ark.]," said Murdock, who stopped to check in with family in Newport. "We actually got stuck in Pocahontas and ended up having to stay in a hotel last night with me and the babies."

The wintry weather forced Murdock to miss spending Christmas with her husband. After almost crashing her car Tuesday, she started her trek back home again Wednesday with her two young children so that they could finally open their presents.

"I've been nervous," Murdock said about driving. "I've had diesel [trucks] behind me mad because I wasn't going fast enough, but they [the children] are my main concern."

Easing up and slowing down are best, according to Arkansas State Police.

Dispatchers with Troop B in Newport said Wednesday that they had been inundated with calls regarding mostly minor accidents since Tuesday afternoon.

Troopers even came into work, skipping their usual holiday vacations to handle the heavy call volume.

They also assisted crews from the Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation to free several trucks and buses stalled outside Newport near Exit 85 on the highway. They removed snow so that other vehicles could drive around the blocked area and prevent accidents.

Avoiding a collision was key for Gene Ryken, who left Conway late Wednesday morning after visiting family for the holiday.

"My policy is to keep my distance from the guy in front of me," said Ryken, who calls O'Fallon, Ill., home, "hope the guy behind me does the same thing and don't do anything in a hurry."

Police and highway crews hope other drivers heed Ryken's advice to stay safe on their journeys ahead.

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